REUNIR Project Addresses Trauma of Separation
Marshfield, WI (OnFocus) Families are still separated as a result of immigration policies at the U.S.-Mexico border, and a local group doesn’t want the conversation to stop.
REUNIR, a Spanish word meaning “come together,” is the project of the Immigration Action Team at First Presbyterian Church in Marshfield, whose members focused initially on providing information to immigrants on their rights and resources.
In 2018, the team was concerned by national news reports on family separations occurring as a result of the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy toward immigrants crossing the border, and what the effect would be on the children involved.
The latest estimates bring the number of children separated from their families since July 2017 close to 5,500, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
In response to the issue, the team has since handed out over 3,500 rubber bracelets stamped with “Reunir” in order raise awareness of the ongoing plight of families, promote dialogue, encourage advocacy for policy changes preventing separation, and provide financial support to organizations dedicated to reunification. So far, the bracelets have made their way to 20 states.
“The idea of developing a bracelet came from the memory of Vietnam-era POW bracelets, where the focus was not on a particular position on the Vietnam War, but on the concern for the soldiers who were held captive,” said Tracy Olson, member. “We saw this as a similar issue, where people who have varying opinions related to immigration could potentially come together on the idea that children should be reunited with family and not go through the trauma of separation.”
REUNIR seeks a humanitarian rather than political approach to family separation. “At this point, it’s trying to reduce the trauma and trying to stop what we know is really harmful to kids,” she said.
At first silver, the bracelets were redesigned to be more noticeable with red, blue, and purple colors. It’s a fitting choice, she said, considering the group’s mission to not be affiliated with any political party.
The group provides the bracelets free of charge with a small fee requested for postage and asks people to wear them until all separated children are back with their families. Each bracelet comes with information about REUNIR’s Facebook and Twitter pages, which have attracted international followers, and lists action steps to show support for families.
The group’s hope is that all children separated from their parents will one day be reunited. Until then, the group will continue its efforts to keep the conversation alive though the distribution of the bracelets and by maintaining an active social media presence.
“Because we’re a church-based group, we really see it as our mission to love our neighbor, to help those people who are most vulnerable, and to provide a voice to those who don’t have a voice,” Olson said.
Order a bracelet by visiting www.fpcmarshfield.org/reunir-project/